Capped: Lessons Learned from the 2017-18 Season

Alexander MacLean

2018-04-12

With fantasy leagues and the regular season wrapped up as of last Sunday, it seems to be the right time to take a quick look back over the season and try to learn a few things. Every year we realize we undervalued or overvalued certain players, teams or positions. That will happen again, as long as the sport is played by humans – there are just too many unknowns affected by chance, and personal circumstance. However, on the whole, we can try to look over some patters, determining where to go from here with them. Hopefully this way we can learn something useful to take forward to next year.

****

Scoring is Back in Vogue

The NHL saw quite the uptick in scoring this year. From one 90+ point scorer last season, to nine this season, we were treated to much more offence for our fantasy teams. The scoring difference was very much top heavy as well. From 2016-2017 to 2017-2018, we also saw increases of:

75-point scorers from 10 to 29

60-point scorers from 42 to 75

50-point scorers from 103 to 118

40-point scorers from 166 to 181

What this tells us, is that much of the scoring jump was top heavy. Top lines, top defence pairings and top powerplay units all got a boost, spilling into second lines, especially on the teams where the lines were a little more fluid.

Some likely reasons for this include:

-The expansion franchise spreading talent slightly thinner

-The crackdown on slashing/hooking/stickwork

-Teams transitioning to the four-forward power-play units – and increasing the efficiency (up a full percent on last year)

-More games from backup goalies due to teams wanting rested starters come playoff time

Lesson:

What we can take away from this, is that owning top line players has become even more valuable, since the discrepancy between them and the second/third line players are growing. Allotting your cap space dollars in a manner to maximize the star power on your team may make a bigger difference now. This means finding the $6.5 million player and the $1.5 million player, instead of looking at the two $4 million players.

Goaltenders are still very tough to project, which means you may not want to be spending top dollar on one. Are Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne going to be worth their $7 million cap hits next year, or do they falter the same as previous top goalies Braden Holtby and Carey Price have? We don’t know for sure. However, what we do know, is that skaters tend to be more consistent year to year, so selling high on a goalie will likely beat selling high on a skater once a new season rolls around.

****

The Cap Continues to Rise

With the cap projected to be anywhere between $78-82 million next year, in addition to the large financial success from the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, the annual rise of the salary cap doesn’t appear to be slowing. It should continue to rise over the next few years due to the influx of dollars from the Vegas market, as well as the continued growth the game is seeing. With the 2020 expansion to Seattle also in the works, it should be a safe bet to expect the numbers to continue to rise over the next handful of years.

The only counterpoint would be a